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Middleborough utility chief resigns under fire

By Christine Legere
Globe Correspondent / August 16, 2012
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The Middleborough Gas and Electric Department’s general manager has resigned, following months of public criticism of his appointment and contract and the utility’s financial practices.

John Granahan, who received a $223,000 severance package, had worked for the municipal utility department for 13 years, three as its general manager.

Under the severance agreement announced last week, the town and the 65-year-old Boxford resident cannot sue each other.

John Healey, a recently elected gas and electric commissioner and now the commission’s chairman, said the resignation marks a new era for the utility.

“The atmosphere has changed from secrecy and arrogance to openness and cooperation,” Healey said.

Granahan and the Gas and Electric Commission first came under fire last winter, when the general manager refused to provide his contract and annual budget to town officials. He eventually released the material, but not before utility department critics started raising questions about his appointment and contract.

In March, the Gas and Electric Commission released requested executive session minutes, but they contained no record of votes on Granahan’s 2009 appointment or subsequent raises.

The deals for Granahan bore the signature of the former commission chairman, Don Triner, who declined to comment on Granahan’s resignation because he is no longer a commissioner. He did say Granahan had a “valid contract,” although he did not elaborate.

Healey said Granahan was the highest-paid general manager of a municipal utility in the state. He received a $189,000 salary, plus productivity bonus.

Critics have also questioned the Gas and Electric Department’s large reserve accounts, saying surpluses should be used to lower rates. Public pressure has since resulted in rate reductions.

In April, the dynamics of the 5-member Gas and Electric Commission changed dramatically after two utility department critics won open seats in the town election.

The commission, with its new members, then hired a lawyer to determine whether Granahan’s appointment and contract were legal, and an auditor to review utility department accounts.

In June, Granahan asked the Gas and Electric Commission to negotiate a resignation agreement. Since the auditor found no wrongdoing in his financial review, the commissioners agreed.

“I think Mr. Granahan came to the realization this was best for everyone,” said Michael Solimini, who had joined the commission in 2010 and lobbied for change. “This puts an end to what would have been a long, drawn-out legal process.”

Granahan, who worked his last day on Aug. 7, declined comment for this story, through his attorney.

Jacqueline Crowley, the department’s power supply manager, has been appointed interim general manager.

Christine Legere can be reached at christinelegere@yahoo.com.

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